Drivers dread the moment they effectively “run out of talent.”
That sinking feeling in the bottom of your stomach when a turn goes pear-shaped and the car goes sideways isn’t exactly thrilling. For some, talent runs out on the day’s last lap, when tires are hot and tensions are hotter. For others, it could be the first lap, when tires are cold and nerves are numb.
If it’s below freezing outside, it could be a combination of cold tires and hot tempers.
Professional driver and Porsche instructor Lorne Banks knows the feeling when talent has left and panic has arrived fairly well. The former motorcycle hotshoe (or is it boot?) is a convert to four-wheeled racing and distills his instruction on a cold Canadian morning.
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“If at first it doesn’t work, then keep doing the same thing?” he asks from his perch on a frozen race course outside Montreal, which Porsche uses as its winter playground.
“No. If at first it doesn’t work, then I’m out of talent,” I reply.
Improving one’s driving talent is the point of Porsche’s Camp4, a worldwide adventure for well-heeled owners looking to increase their skills without decreasing the value of their cars with broken bumpers, mangled hoods, or frayed nerves.
The Canadian winter driving program is a relatively new stop for Porsche on its Camp4 circuit, which started in the 1960s. Drivers and instructors wind their way through slalom runs, drifting figure-eight courses, downhill sweepers, and short tracks for rally flicks. For four or five days, the crash course on staying dent-free is meant to showcase the dynamics of Porsche’s sports cars on the frozen tundra. Starting at $4,000 and running all the way up to $7,500 for a five-day mind-boggling bender, Camp4 is an adventure, but also serves as a notice: talent only goes so far, and repetition is the only way to fill in the gaps.
Porsche Camp4 Canada 2017
It’s physics, after all
Banks is meticulous in his approach to instructing drivers. After a brief session in seating position and car prep, Banks’ advice is simple to novice drivers: Drivetrain and engine layout are critical knowledge on paper, but there’s no amount of talking that’s better than seat time.
For example, our first test is a rally flick behind the wheel of a 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, an exercise meant to get Porsche’s famous pendulum rear end to swing around with predictability. Banks’ instruction and theory may have well been in Klingon.
The lesson to be learned on the snowy short track: Porsche’s all-wheel-drive system won’t save much if the front wheels aren’t straight. Steer into the skid and I’m stuffed; straighten up the wheels and the fronts will claw the back end in line with where the nose is pointed.
It’s counter-intuitive for me because I’m used to sawing at the wheel when the back end is flailing. Slower hands help in this all-wheel-drive test, and the 911’s front tires greatly benefit from a driver’s mental reset—even when carrying more rotational inertia in the rear-engined Porsche than you get in the teacup ride at Disneyland.